Let's start right out: Hey, wha happened?
Penn State 48 - Wisconsin 7
It's entirely possible that Oregon State got insanely lucky against USC. It's entirely possible that Wisconsin is going through a bailout-worthy recession (we'll get to that next). It's more than possible that Illinois is regressing to the mean. Even if those things are true - and there's plenty of evidence that they're not - has there been a more dominant team than this one? Not only are they in the conversation for a national championship game berth, but they have to be favored. Just look at the other contenders. Texas has to run a gauntlet in the Big XII South (which is now, without question, the best division in football). Alabama still has to navigate games at Tennessee and LSU, not to mention the SEC Championship. Of the other undefeateds, Okie State and Texas Tech have to play Texas, and the non-BCS teams can't hope to leapfrog the Nittany Lions. Penn State has games at Ohio State and Iowa, and close in Happy Valley against Sparty. Everything is winnable. Let the debate begin.
As for Wisconsin, we'd like to welcome you to the back of the pack. We Iowa fans have been expecting you. See, Wisky, we all revert back eventually. We had this exact same season in 2005, when the polls had us in the top 20 based on little more than returning players and inertia. We watched it all come crashing down. We know how you feel, to see your once-inpenetrable fortress of a stadium go silent as a team loaded with talent crushes you on national television, right before your beer-soaked eyes. The next step is an inexplicable road loss. Ours was Indiana. Yours? Well, it could be this week. Anyway, welcome. We've been expecting you.
Michigan State 37 - Northwestern 20
Any Iowa fan who watched this game came away with two questions: How did we stay so close to Michigan State, and how did we lose to North-Motherfucking-Western?
Michigan State is starting to look dangerous in that 2002 Iowa sense of the word. Flukey, turnover-filled loss early in the season, followed by a couple of unnecessarily-close wins in games against mediocre opponents that maybe should have been losses, followed by a breakout win. Now comes the run to the bank.
Northwestern was the worst 5-0 team ever. Now they're the worst 5-1 team ever.
Toledo 13 - Michigan 10
Minnesota 27 - Illinois 20
You want to beat Illinois? Make Juice Williams throw the ball. In Illini's three wins this year, Juice is averaging 194 yards passing. In their three losses, that number jumps to 365. The Illini defense is horrible beyond words, and they need to run the ball and keep the other offense on the sidelines for long stretches of the game to have a chance. In fact, 2008 Illinois might be one of the rare times where time of possession actually means something. There is also the sneaking suspiscion, given the Michigan laugh-fest, that they haven't beaten a team in the top 80 nationally yet.
Minnesota, on the other hand, is starting to look dangerously capable. The Daily Gopher is right to call it the most important win of the Brewster era. They are even more correct in noting that there are defensive deficiencies, most notably the porous pass defense (though, again, much of that is attributable to Illinois in their perpetual catchup offense). Despite their six wins and a noble performance against Ohio State, I'm hesitant to put the Gophers in the top third of the conference.
That being said, I think we have a far better chance of beating Illinois at Memorial Stadium than Minnesota at The Dump.
Ohio State 16 - Purdue 3
I'll just say this: How the hell can Ohio State fans watch this crap? I'm an Iowa fan. I know ugly, boring, grind-it-out, no-yards-and-the-proverbial-cloud-of-dust football, but this is excruciating. Watching Ohio State play football is like watching a heavyweight boxing match between a recent has-been and an Evander Holyfield-level has-been. OSU leans on its opponent for nine rounds, battering him with shots to the kidneys, until the opponent finally crumples in a heap and the Buckeyes are declared the victors. It's not bad football. It's not even hideously ugly football. It's just mind-numbing football, and I can't watch it anymore.
As for Purdue? Let's just say Joe Tiller is spending far more time reading about time shares in Boca Raton than watching the other team's film. This is why the lame duck head coach is a terrible concept, even when executed flawlessly (as it has not been here). Purdue-Indiana will set BXI football back to the Cro-Magnon era.
(All photos courtesy of AP)